17:12 PM

New student org wins Chili Cook-Off with last-minute 'Hawks Heat' recipe

From left, Shirley Alexander, Minnie Ruiz Garcia, Sara Jackson, Joyce Saraiva, Clarebelle Abarquez, Scott Murphree, Lauren Lowe and Joshua Espinoza cooked up a marketing strategy and a bacon-infused recipe that won the popular vote at this year's Chili Cook-Off.

The American Marketing Association, a newly-formed student organization at University of Houston-Clear Lake, won the annual battle of the chili recipes that took place during the university’s Homecoming and Family Weekend on April 15. The Chili Cook-Off is UH-Clear Lake’s longest-standing tradition, with 16 teams competing with the most creative, spiciest concoctions in hopes of achieving the honor of being known as 2023’s chili-making champion.

The American Marketing Association’s recipe for “Hawks Heat” won the popular vote for Best Chili and placed second in the judges’ Best Chili category.

Since the organization was created only about two months ago, the group’s vice president of promotions and advertising Lauren Lowe and vice president of the organization’s website Joshua Espinoza said there wasn’t much time to plan or even to come up with a good chili recipe.

“We’re a new student org and we really wanted to get some awareness about us in the Cook-Off, and I think it worked,” said Lauren Lowe. “We did signs and a raffle, which was a great way to get people to come to our booth and at least try the chili.”

Figuring out the “chili strategy” was not easy, Espinoza said.

“This was a last-minute decision for our org to get involved. We talked it over with our teammates and we just executed,” he said. “We divided the team up and did a lot of online chili research. Our job was to find a recipe, make it, and taste it. Everyone brought their chili to a meeting and we voted on the one we liked best—that was Joyce Saraiva’s recipe.”

Saraiva said she was very surprised to learn that her recipe was the group’s choice.

“I’m a senior and I’m going to graduate this summer, and I joined AMA at the last minute because I was about to graduate without ever having been in an organization,” she said. “I cook all the time but I have never made chili. We did not discuss how we were going to make the chili, except that we weren’t going to use beans.”

She said her mother taught her to just look around her pantry and pull things together. “I just thought, what do you put in chili? I made a base with meat and tomato, but since we weren’t going to use beans, I needed something with texture,” she said. “Someone mentioned fire-roasted diced tomatoes. To me, that means it’s spicy, and I like spicy. I added serrano peppers. But I don’t want to give away the recipe!”

After working the recipe flavors for some time, and taste-testing with her children, she came up with the team’s Hawks Heat recipe. “I did not look this up online,” she said. “I was just going with it. I had no idea that my chili made from things I just gathered up in my kitchen would make it that far.”

There was one more key ingredient that she added. “Bacon,” she said. “I wanted the chili to have a smoky flavor, so I looked in the fridge and saw bacon. I said that would be the ingredient that would pull it together and make it different.”

Saraiva said she thought they had a “never-ending pot.”

“We had 10 pounds of chili and we ran out,” she said. “I thought we had so much, but so many people came back for seconds and thirds, it was gone!”

Lowe and Espinoza said they also thought they had enough to last the entire event, but theirs was the first chili to run out.

“We had great word of mouth for ours,” Lowe said. “We got to implement a lot of things we have been learning in our marketing classes. We did not have the best-looking booth because we are so new, and we aren’t like other teams who have been doing this for years. But we had really good chili, so we learned that word of mouth and having people talking about our chili and telling others to go try it is what worked.”

The AMA team of cooks also includes Clarebelle Abarquez, Scott Murphree, and Minnie Ruiz Garcia. Other members who helped direct traffic to the booth were Sara Jackson and Shirley Alexander. The org’s faculty advisor is Lecturer in Marketing Lynn Place.

For more information about UHCL’s American Marketing Association, go online.